The National Elephant Institute (NEI) was founded in 2004 under the patronage of HRH Princess Galyani Vadhana. Much confusion has existed as to the difference between the NEI and the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, even to the point of people thinking the two were separate organizations and separate places.
In fact, the NEI is not a place at all but rather a sort of 'think tank' based at the TECC, which is the site you actually visit. The NEI's purpose is primarily to extend the TECC's vast expertise and experience to support other government agencies and private organizations working to help Thailand's elephants. The NEI's great knowledge ranges through all levels of elephant care from sophisticated modern veterinary medicine to timeless traditional knowledge, including classic mahout skills, herbal medicine, and more.
Thailand is currently facing two pressing needs in elephant management. First is to preserve valuable but rapidly disappearing traditional knowledge. The second need is to simultaneously promote the introduction of modern techniques and management. The NEI plays a key support role in answering both needs. TECC services available to elephant owners (the Hospital Work we do, the Mobile Clinic, and the Elephant Rescue Unit) have all created extraordinary good will for our staff amongst the elephant-keeping community. We thus have very close contact with elephant owners at all levels, from big elephant camps down to individual mahouts. Given our status as a civil service organization, we have close and comfortable relationships with government agencies, universities, and communities. We are a unique bridge between keepers and regulatory agencies.
With its 'big picture' knowledge, the NEI has helped write new draft national law on elephant care. We have shared our practical elephant knowledge with many groups ranging from local NGOs to universities and government agencies.